Kevin Rashid Johnson and Oregon’s Isolation Torture Unit

by kersplebedeb
This is an update about Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, a prisoner activist and intellectual who is currently in a dire situation in Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon.

As was reported last week, Rashid has been in the midst of a health crisis for almost a month now, which has included periods of severe disorientation. For a time he was refusing to eat or drink; as far as our most recent information if concerned, he is currently accepting liquids but still not eating.

Rashid has spent most of his adult life in prison, and almost all of that time has been spent in various isolation units. This is a direct consequence of his actively resisting abuse from prison guards and their lackeys in the 1990s, and to his continued political writing and exposing conditions in America’s carceral nightmare ever since. A New Afrikan Communist and the founder and Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter, Rashid is also a longtime mentor to several activists (and, through his writings, other prisoners) in Virginia, and in recent years has gained national attention as the result of the publication of his book Defying the Tomb, and the use of his artwork in numerous progressive publications. Most notably, Rashid is the artist who designed the drawing used as an emblem during the historic 2011 California prisoners’ hunger strikes, in which over 12,000 participated.

Rashid is a Virginia State prisoner, yet in 2012 the situation at Red Onion State Prison (where he had been held in solitary for years) escalated, with certain guards singling him out for abuse. In one harrowing incident, he was beaten while in handcuffs, which left him with a dislocated shoulder several of his dreadlocks torn out from the roots (as reported here). This attack came shortly after he wrote an article exposing a pain-compliance technique used at Red Onion which involved twisting prisoners’ fingers back, leading in some cases to broken bones. Subsequent to this assault, he was transferred to Wallens Ridge prison where he was informed by guards that he “would not leave the prison walking” (as reported here).

It was following exposure of this set-up, and numerous phone calls and petitions from outside supporters, that Rashid was transferred across the country, to Oregon. This transfer was possible due to an American practice of some States agreeing to imprison people from other States, essentially renting out their prison cells for one another. Upon his arrival in Oregon, Rashid was placed in general population – the first time in almost twenty years that he had not been in solitary confinement. Nevertheless, after just a few months, his work educating other prisoners in revolutionary theory and the principles of solidarity led to his being transferred to Snake River’s Intensive Management Unit, a prison within a prison on the border with Idaho in Oregon’s remote south-east corner. Continue reading

Forty years in solitary: two men mark sombre anniversary in Louisiana prison

Herman’s House – Trailer – Herman Wallace / Angola 3 Documentary 2012

Published on Mar 19, 2012 by HermansHouseTheFilm

Please sign the Amnesty Int’l petition to end the decades of isolation in Louisiana state prisons http://bit.ly/amnestyactionFor more information about our film please visit the website http://www.hermanshousethefilm.comThere are 2.2 million people in jail in the U.S. More than 80,000 of those are in solitary confinement. New Orleans native Herman Wallace has been there longer than anyone.In 1972, Herman was serving a 25-year sentence for bank robbery when he was accused of murdering an Angola Prison guard and immediately thrown into solitary. Many believed he was wrongfully convicted. Then in 2001 he received a letter from art student Jackie Sumnell, who posed the provocative question:”What kind of house does a man who has lived in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?”An inspired creative dialogue led to a collaborative art project: “The House That Herman Built.” The exhibition has brought thousands of gallery visitors around the world face-to-face with the harsh realities of the American prison system.But as Herman’s House reveals, the exhibition is just the first step.

Their journey takes an unpredictable turn when Herman asks Jackie to make his dream a reality. As her own finances dwindle, Jackie wonders if she will ever succeed. Meanwhile, the Louisiana courts consider Herman’s latest appeal. Along the way we meet former “stick-up kid” Michael Musser; Herman’s sister Vickie, a loyal and tireless supporter; and former long-term solitary inmate and fellow Black Panther activist Robert King.

With compassion and meaningful artistry, Herman’s House takes us inside the lives and imaginations of two unforgettable characters–forging a friendship and building a dream in the struggle to end the “cruel and unusual punishment” of long-term solitary confinement.

  • They’ve spent 23 hours of each day in the last 40 years in a 9ft-by-6ft cell. Now, as human rights groups intensify calls for their release, a documentary provides insight into an isolated life

in New York,guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 April 2012

Herman Wallace, left, and Albert Woodfox in Angola prison in Louisiana. Robert King, the third member of the Angola 3, had his conviction overturned and was released in 2001.

“I can make about four steps forward before I touch the door,” Herman Wallace says as he describes the cell in which he has lived for the past 40 years. “If I turn an about-face, I’m going to bump into something. I’m used to it, and that’s one of the bad things about it.”

On Tuesday, Wallace and his friend Albert Woodfox will mark one of the more unusual, and shameful, anniversaries in American penal history. Forty years ago to the day, they were put into solitary confinement in Louisiana‘s notorious Angola jail. They have been there ever since.

They have spent 23 hours of every one of the past 14,610 days locked in their single-occupancy 9ft-by-6ft cells. Each cell, Amnesty International records, has a toilet, a mattress, sheets, a blanket, pillow and a small bench attached to the wall. Their contact with the world outside the windowless room is limited to the occasional visit and telephone call, “exercise” three times a week in a caged concrete yard, and letters that are opened and read by prison guards.

A new documentary film takes us into that cell, providing rare insight into the personal psychological impact of such prolonged isolation. Herman’s House tracks the experiences and thoughts of Wallace as he reflects on four decades banged away in a box.

The film is based on recorded telephone conversations between Wallace and the documentary’s director Angad Bhalla. Wallace, a New Orleans native now aged 70, speaks with powerful understatement about his time in solitary.

“Being in a cage for such an extended period of time, it has its downfalls. You may not feel it, you may not know it, you may think you’re OK, and you’re just perfunctory about it.” Continue reading